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Isa Soares Tonight
More Than 2k Dead In Syria And Turkey After A 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake; 2,600+ Dead In Syria And Turkey After Major Earthquake; NATO Holds Annual Winter Military Exercises In Estonia; 2,800+ Dead In Syria And Turkey, Rescue Efforts Ongoing. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired February 06, 2023 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, HOST: Hello, and welcome, I'm Christina Macfarlane in for Isa Soares. Tonight, we'll get straight to our top story. It's now
10:00 p.m. in Turkey and Syria. More than 17 hours on from one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the region in a century. Rescue teams are
desperately digging through the rubble, trying to find survivors. Emergency responders hoping for more moments like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: The rescue of a young girl from a collapsed building in southern Turkey. But among these pockets of hope, so much heartbreak.
Rescue efforts have been made even more difficult by harsh Winter weather conditions and freezing temperatures. The scale of the devastation is
unthinkable. At least, 2,700 people have been killed, thousands more injured.
It's expected these numbers will continue to rise. The initial 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck here near Gaziantep in the southeastern part of
Turkey, in the early hours of Monday morning. Dozens of aftershocks have followed. One almost as strong as the first quake. Here is CNN's Jomana
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A young man trapped, desperation in his eyes. Then, in the pre-dawn, darkness, a moment of joy.
Rescuers haul him from the wreckage of a building in southern Turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
KARADSHEH: As the morning sun rises, all many others can do is pray.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'll see what happens to those living on the ground floors. May God give us a speedy recovery.
KARADSHEH: This was a residential building full of families asleep in their homes when the massive earthquake struck just before daybreak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was sleeping when my wife suddenly woke me up. The quake was very severe, very scary. It took almost
two minutes until the shaking stopped.
KARADSHEH: We can't yet know how many people could be trapped in a building like this in wrecked homes like this across Turkey, and to
neighboring Syria, more buildings brought down, a toddler found. The White Helmets have done this before, heroes of the Syrian civil war now pulling
people out from under a very different disaster.
So many in rebel-held northern Syria had very little yesterday. People were left with nothing today. In Turkey too, foreign help will be needed. The
government in Ankara has asked its neighbors to come to its aid. The search and rescue will stretch on for days, hope will remain for as long as
MACFARLANE: Well, the earthquake as we've mentioned also hit in northwestern Syria, bringing more destruction to areas devastated by an
ongoing civil war. You're looking at rescue teams working with the White Helmets in Aleppo, searching the rubble for survivors. The aid group is now
asking the international community for much needed help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very difficult task for us. We need help. We need the international community to do something to help us, to support us,
northwest Syria. Now, it's a disaster area. We need help from everyone to save our people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Well, the U.N. Secretary General Guterres Anthony -- Antonio Guterres says United Nations staff is in Turkey and Syria right now to
provide assistance. El-Mostafa Benlamlih is a humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations in the Syrian capital of Damascus, and is joining me now
live. Thank you so much for your time this evening. There is so much concern --
EL-MOSTAFA BENLAMLIH, HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR, UNITED STATES: You're welcome --
MACFARLANE: Thank you -- across the region. The scale of the devastation, but particularly in Syria. And I want to begin, if I may, by asking you for
an update. And as much of you know right now of the devastation in Syria, particularly in the northwest's, of which we know very little.
BENLAMLIH: Yes, thank you very much. Good afternoon everybody. It is a sad occasion, a sad situation. We haven't seen this for many decades, as you
have said, then I would like to offer, first, my condolences to all the families of the victims in Turkey and in Syria.
This is affecting both countries. The situation since the beginning, we have been working there -- working on this, and we have teams in Aleppo, in
Hama, in Latakia, and other places trying to assess the situation. What I know is that we have more than 3,000 -- over 3000 between Turkey and Syria,
and the numbers keep growing.
We have the number of the injured people, and the injured people are crowding the hospitals. You just heard the person crying and asking for
help. We need help. Many buildings, I think between 20 and 30 buildings collapsed in Aleppo, and maybe also in other places. Buildings in those
places are already very vulnerable, and it might not be a surprise to see other buildings coming down.
Particularly as we're facing also very tough conditions of work with the rain, and with the snow that is, I think, expected tonight in all the
northwest of Syria. That includes the northwest Syria, the Lalapia(ph), the Kohs(ph) and the Eifetos(ph) and near this -- help is needed. Many people
are very scared.
They don't want to go back to their houses, if we can call them houses in these cases. They are going sometimes. They're afraid of the tremors, and
some of them are quite strong, so they're extending -- they're staying -- they're expanding their nights sometimes in freezing temperatures.
MACFARLANE: Yes --
BENLAMLIH: Snow undergoes -- or they're sleeping in cars. The luckiest ones are hosted and sheltered in some schools. But many schools also got
affected and cannot be used as shelters. We, as the United Nations and the humanitarian family here in Syria are doing our best to provide the
support. And we're using whatever stocks we have already.
And these stocks were not meant to this situation. We're lucky we have them, and we can address the immediate needs, but their stocks that were
there for other purposes. But this is an emergency.
MACFARLANE: Yes, and --
BENLAMLIH: And it's not only an emergency -- yes, please, go ahead --
MACFARLANE: Sorry, to interrupt, as you're talking, we are seeing the devastation of those buildings that you've mentioned that have fallen in
northern Syria. We heard from the White Helmets who issued an urgent call earlier today asking for international help. Can you give our viewers a
sense of how people have been living in those northwest regions, in those refugee areas. What the infrastructure is like, and how badly they would
have been impacted by those tremors this morning.
BENLAMLIH: Yes, well, the infrastructure has been crippled by the situation, the war and so on. It's not -- you have, we call them cities,
but sometimes those cities are ghost cities -- OK, let's stick on the ropes. Now, the situation under this -- after the earthquake, the access,
the roads have been also made even more difficult to use than what we used to have.
It's a crisis in the crisis, and those who are living in tents are living under extreme conditions. Water, tents, rain, snow, freezing, this is the
Winter. This is the --
MACFARLANE: I think --
BENLAMLIH: They're in very vulnerable business.
MACFARLANE: So, can you tell us what rescue efforts -- sorry, it's been a bit difficult to hear you. Can you tell us what rescue efforts are
currently underway, and where that help is coming from, given that Turkey are obviously unable to come to your aid at the moment.
BENLAMLIH: OK, we have -- we work with our partners, NGOs and international NGOs. And they're doing a lot of that work in terms of
helping with the rescue. You mentioned the White Helmets too. They're -- but they're also busy delivering medical kits, delivering food, ready to
eat food that's provided by U.N. agencies, WFP and others delivering medical kits where W.H.O., UNICEF, and UNFPA are working to deliver these.
So, we're actually doing the work of providing support beyond the rescue, but the rescue -- search and rescue is hampered by the situation here,
where there's a lack of heavy equipment and machinery to remove the rubbles to help with the situation in Syria. It's as I said really tough because
beyond the crisis that we have been living, and the conditions are -- it's not easy to import. It's not easy to renew, it's not easy to find spare
parts for those -- that equipment, and nobody expected this anyway. So it wasn't --
MACFARLANE: Yes --
BENLAMLIH: On the top of -- at the top of priorities.
MACFARLANE: So, if I can interject --
BENLAMLIH: Now, we have a situation under us --
MACFARLANE: Your --
BENLAMLIH: Please --
MACFARLANE: Message to the international community, if you have one, what is your top priority now? What do you need most from the international
community in terms of aid and support?
BENLAMLIH: Well, there is the humanitarian aid and support that's immediate. We're starting to use our own stocks, but we will need more.
There is need, also, to make it easier for the people here to get fuel because we, as humanitarians, find it difficult to get the fuel we need,
facilitate the imports of the fuel.
There is also a need to facilitate also all the import of whatever is needed to put these equipment and machines to work. There is need for
medical equipment and medicines. There is need for -- just to give you an example, water and electricity are big issues here.
MACFARLANE: Right --
BENLAMLIH: And they're enormous -- before the earthquake. And now, most of the houses, most of the communities depend on -- depended on these elevated
tanks of water. And most of these elevated tanks of water were the first ones to fall, or to fall into disrepair. They need replacements or they
need repair. We need all of this.
BENLAMLIH: I know that we need to put priorities -- this is now the immediate need. We need that. We need to replenish our stocks, because we
will need them. And we will need also support to facilitate the work of the humanitarian community.
MACFARLANE: Yes, so support needed on every level, even on a very basic level as you were --
BENLAMLIH: Yes --
MACFARLANE: Saying there in terms of water and supplies.
BENLAMLIH: Yes --
MACFARLANE: El-Mostafa Benlamlih, thank you so much for giving us your time, I know it's an extremely busy 24 hours for you. Appreciate you
BENLAMLIH: No sweat, thank you very much.
MACFARLANE: Thank you. Well, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is standing by, joining me now live from Istanbul. Jomana, we were just hearing there about
the situation in Syria, which we have known so little up to this point. Night has of course, fallen across the region, we know that freezing
temperatures are now affecting rescue crews -- rescue services.
Bring us up-to-date with those rescue efforts, and where people are right now. I imagine, you know, they are displaced, some of them are huddling in
KARADSHEH: I mean, Christina, it's just an unimaginable scenario right now. You are talking about this earthquake hitting at a time where the country
is experiencing a severe Winter weather with the snow and the freezing temperatures. The earthquake hitting at 4 O'clock in the morning, when
you're talking about most people would have been asleep at the time.
And so, there's a lot of concern right now about how many people are trapped under the rubble of thousands of buildings that have been damaged.
Many buildings flattened across this massive earthquake zone across ten provinces in Turkey, and as your guest was saying, of course, in
northwestern Syria and other parts of Syria as well.
Turkish authorities saying they just don't know right now how many people are trapped under this devastation. I mean, you just have to look at the
images, at the utter destruction, to imagine the kind of horror that people went through and are still going through. I mean, we've heard from so many
people, not knowing where to go and what to do, because they have to stay away from buildings.
As you can imagine, authorities are urging them to move away from all structures right now, with more than a 100 aftershocks reported, some so
powerful, almost as powerful as the initial earthquake. Those who have cars are staying in their cars.
Others are waiting too, whatever the Turkish government has set up already. Mosques, schools, other structures that are standing, that are able to --
you know, to be used, what they're able to use right now as shelters. But I mean we're talking about this massive area, Christina, where you have a
population in the millions, and you know, you're just seeing these images, city after city, after town after town, with this just unbelievable
So it's a very challenging situation for Turkish authorities who have, you know, they've dealt with these situations in the past. Nothing like this
according to Turkish president, describing this as the biggest disaster Turkey has witnessed in about a century, since the 1939 devastating
earthquake that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
This is a country that is used to earthquakes, used to dealing with natural disasters, they have deployed search and rescue teams, the military, from
across the country to help with the rescue efforts as well as provide medical support and aid to those impacted. But even this country with all
its capabilities, Christina, it had to trigger this level-four alarm in the early hours after the earthquake, requesting international support.
You know, this says so much about the devastation and the destruction and the high casualty figures they were expecting. And we have heard from the
international community beginning to respond with dozens of countries, NATO, the EU, all ready and starting to provide support, aid, and you know,
at least, two countries, Qatar and Kuwait also setting up the humanitarian aid bridge between Turkey and those countries.
I mean, lots of challenges right now the search and rescue operations are ongoing. Of course, night time, making this very challenging for them, but
they are still trying to do their best to try and rescue as many people as they can. But really tough conditions that they're dealing with. The
weather, the aftershocks, roads that are blocked right now.
And I can tell you, people are bracing for more and more bad news as we continue to see the death toll and the casualty figures rise by the hour.
MACFARLANE: Yes, that weather really complicating efforts, making a bad situation even more dire. Jomana, thank you for now. Well, as we've just
been hearing, this earthquake happened just as Turkey faces weather that is colder at this time of year than average, which is making rescue efforts
difficult. So, let's go now to meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, how much worse is this weather going to get? What are the -- what's the
situation facing these rescue teams?
JENNIFER GRAY, METEOROLOGIST: Well, the situation is that it's cold. We're seeing temperatures 5 to 10 degrees below normal, that we would typically
see this time of year. We're in the 9:00 hour right now, temperatures around 4 degrees, 6 degrees in Syria. So temperatures are near freezing,
and as we go through the overnight hours, temperatures are only going to get colder.
So we are going to see extremely cold conditions as we go throughout the overnight hours into tomorrow morning where temperatures are going to dip
below freezing. We're going to see also a system that's in the area, it's not only -- want to chip in, rain, around areas that were impacted by the
earthquake. But we're also going to see snow.
So, going forward in time, you can see rain and snow, it starts to clear out by the time we get into tomorrow afternoon, conditions should be drier.
But it's still going to be cold. The cold is going to hang around. Here's your forecast accumulation, you can see about 25 millimeters of rain we
could pick up anywhere from 5 to 10 centimeters of snow.
Which doesn't sound like a whole lot, but when you are doing search and recovery rescue efforts, that is a lot. Any little bit can definitely make
a difference. So we're going to see temperatures drop below freezing, 4 and 5 degrees or so. Some areas a little bit farther to the north, it could dip
as low as 10 degrees below freezing, and then high temperatures are only in the low single digits by the time we get to tomorrow afternoon.
And then temperatures stay cold for the next several days. So, unfortunately, we are going to see this cold weather stick around, luckily,
the rain and snow should taper off, but still, people who are inside do not have power, and a lot of people have chosen to leave their homes in fear of
another quake happening.
And so, you're going to see a lot of people outdoors in the elements, and then people that are choosing to stay are not going to have power. And
then, of course, we have lots of people that don't have shelter at all because of the damage. So, it's just really unfortunate circumstances right
now, Christina, I wish I had better news, but it is going to be a frigid night ahead for folks in Turkey.
MACFARLANE: Yes, clearly, this is going to make the humanitarian situation even worse, sadly.
GRAY: Right --
MACFARLANE: Jennifer, thank you for now.
MACFARLANE: All right, still to come tonight, much more on the devastating earthquake. But first, the search for debris from that suspected Chinese
spy balloon shot down during the weekend by U.S. fighter jets.
MACFARLANE: Beijing is now admitting that the high altitude balloon flying over Latin America belongs to China, saying it was used for flight tests.
Meantime, tensions continue to mount between the U.S. and China over a similar balloon that spent much of last week floating over the U.S. U.S.
military fighter jets shot that balloon down Saturday off the country's east coast.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels are now scouring an 11 kilometer field, working to recover the debris. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has been tracking
developments from the waters near the recovery site.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Pieces of that suspected Chinese spy balloon that was downed over the Atlantic Ocean just
off the coast here of South Carolina on Saturday have started arriving at Quantico, the laboratory there for the FBI and Intelligence officials to
begin examining them.
Now, we know that they're attempting to recover everything they can out here, off the coast of Myrtle Beach area. Now, we went out earlier today to
see if we could see any of that, potential recovery. We got to at a perimeter that the Coast Guard had set up. And basically, when the shrimp
boat that we're on right now arrived, the coast guard radio to our captain and said look, you are too close. You cannot come any further.
In fact, you have to turn around. And so that's what we've done. We have gone south away from that perimeter there, but we could see Coast Guard
vessels that were set up. We're told according to that radio, that it's about a 20 mile perimeter. And the U.S. Navy as well as the Coast Guard set
There are going to be Navy divers and potentially unmanned vessels that go and lift up any sort of structure onto a salvage vessel, and the rest of
that will then of course, be taken to Quantico for further examination. They've also set up some airspace restriction in the recovery area, as they
continue to try and get everything that they can from that downed balloon. Dianne Gallagher, CNN, off the coast of South Carolina.
MACFARLANE: Well, more now on the political fallout between the U.S. and China over the incident. Oren Liebermann is standing by at the Pentagon
with the latest from Washington. But first, let's go to Marc Stewart who is in Hong Kong. Marc, China really doubling down on the idea here that
they've done nothing wrong, accusing the U.S. actually of overreaction. So how is this being viewed internally, and are they going to ask for the
debris back, do you think?
MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question, Christina, that is not clear. But China is indeed sticking with its message, and that's how
it is responding. That is the picture it is painting within China. So we have two different balloons, one in North America flying over the United
States, then we had another balloon in Latin America flying over Columbia and Costa Rica.
Yet, very similar explanations as to how these different vessels ended up where they did. Take a listen to a recent briefing from China's foreign
ministry just yesterday in Beijing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAO NING, SPOKESPERSON, FOREIGN MINISTRY, CHINA (through translator): I have noted the relevant report, and we are working to understand and verify
the situation. I want to emphasize that until the facts are clear, making speculations and hyping up the issue are not conducive to solving the
China is a responsible country and always abides strictly by international law. We have no intention of violating the territory or airspace of any
sovereign country. We hope that both sides will handle it with mutual calm and prudence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: So that is what China is saying, mutual calm, yet, it is still to be determined if that's how the U.S. will respond, obviously, we saw that
balloon shot down from the sky. This is coming at a time when diplomatic relations between the two nations are very tense in a very competitive
It is because of this incident that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has now postponed his trip to China, the key word being "postponed", not being
described as canceled. But there is clearly -- there is clearly a need for diplomatic discussion before this occurred, and now, looking towards the
MACFARLANE: Yes, it'll be interesting to see how long Blinken does delay that trip. Marc, thank you. Let's turn to Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.
Oren, we've been hearing just then from Dianne Gallagher about the efforts to recover the debris of this balloon, a significant efforts. What are the
government hoping or hoping or even expecting to find from the debris of this balloon?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a unique opportunity to get up-close and personal look, if you will, at Chinese
surveillance and spy technology in which you'll find within that. This was supposed to be floating above at 60,000 feet, not right in a forensics lab
being pulled apart and picked apart and analyzed by the U.S. Intelligence community.
Except, that's exactly what's going to happen. We just had a briefing a short time ago with General Glen VanHerck; the commander of Northern
Command and NORAD, and he said there were significant efforts undertaken while the balloon was over the United States to prevent any of the Chinese
surveillance attempts as this was going on.
Instead, they had an opportunity to learn what this was capable of, what sort of technology he had, and VanHerck said that this was valuable time
spent. It was worth the time in waiting to shoot it down. Now, instead of looking at this at a distance, you get an up-close look at it depending, of
course, on the conditions of the wreckage.
It fell from 60,000 feet, so 11 or 12 miles high before it crashed into the ocean. So we're waiting for an update on, frankly, how many pieces of this
they need to collect, and how much of it isn't good enough condition to really be analyzed. But that's the focus now in terms of finding all the
debris, raising whatever sunk to the bottom in about 50 feet of water to pull that up and start to analyze it, and then pick this apart and see what
can be pulled from it.
There's a rare opportunity to get an up-close look at Chinese technology, and that gives you insight into what their intent was, what they were
hoping to learn, and what the future plans on something like this might be in terms of where else they might try to deploy these. We've already seen
the balloon over Latin America, the question, are there more of these out there that the U.S. will now be looking for?
MACFARLANE: Yes, whether or not we get any insight into what they find however, might be another matter. Oren, thank you very much there, live
from the Pentagon, and thank you also to Marc in Beijing. All right, still to come tonight, a country technically at war with Syria says it's joining
the relief effort. We'll look at the regional response, the devastating quake just ahead.
MACFARLANE: Sirens blare as a Syrian survivor gazes across the rubble. More than 2,500 people have been killed and one of the strongest earthquakes to
hit Turkey and Syria in a century. One Syrian resident says it was worse than years of war. Returning to our top story now, the powerful earthquake
that rocked both Syria and Turkey as people slept, turning homes and entire apartment buildings into piles of rubble.
Dozens of aftershocks have been recorded furthering the destruction. More than 2,800 people were killed, but that number will almost certainly
continue to rise as rescuers frantically searched the debris. They're desperate for any signs of life racing against the clock to find survivors.
Here you see a young boy being rescued from the ruins of his home in Syria.
And we're seeing similar scenes in Turkey where. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just declared seven days of national mourning. Residents there
are still in shock.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRCAN RIZVAN, TURKISH RESIDENT (through translator): There are people still trapped under rubble. I have a friend living in this apartment. His
children were rescued from the top floor, but only his daughter broken arm. We'll see what happened to those living on the ground floors. May God give
us a speedy recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACFARLANE: Well, country countries around the world are offering their support, including Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his
government will send aid to both Turkey and Syria, even though Israel is formally at war with the Syrian regime. Let's bring in Hadas Gold who's
joining us now from Jerusalem. And Hadas, I know you've been tracking regional development and diplomacy around this. But let's begin in Israel.
Just walk us through what Israel are committing in terms of search and rescue, and humanitarian aid. And interestingly also that offer of help to
Syria we just mentioned.
HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, well, Israel felt the initial tremor. I mean, it woke some people out of their sleep. My husband
actually felt those tremors from that initial earthquake in the middle of the night and was felt all the way across the West Bank and through to
Jordan. And actually, that really big aftershock that happened a few hours later, that actually caused people in northern Israel to evacuate buildings
because of how strong with it.
But the Israelis are offering aid to Turkey and Syria. The Israeli military has already sent two planes out towards Turkey. With about 150 Search and
rescuers, the Israeli military telling me that actually the Turkish Government has so far only requested from the Israelis to send search and
rescue teams. Although the Israeli military says that they are ready to send more, send things like field hospitals. I was interested in how they
were going to get there. They told me that they're going to land in Adana, which is about hour and a half, two hour drives from some of the worst hit
And then meanwhile, as you mentioned, this offer to Syria, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing that through diplomatic
channels, that he didn't elaborate on, that Syria had actually requested some aid from Israel. Now, an Israeli security official actually telling
CNN, that that diplomatic channel was actually Russia, that it was through Russia that the request to Israel to help Syria came through. Now Syrian
official is telling a pro-government news outlet in Syria that that is false, that it's just Benjamin Netanyahu trying to exploit the situation.
But I've also heard from Israeli officials that they are planning to send things like blankets and medicine and the like, so possibly not as big of a
search and rescue effort that is being sent to Turkey. But it is interesting to see how, you know, such a tragic situation is hopefully, you
know, causing political diplomatic lines to just, sort of, fall because what really matters here is to get these people help wherever it may come
from in whatever form it may come from.
And then meanwhile, you know, you see, feeling for many people here, feeling that sort of earthquake is causing them to wonder what happens when
the epicenter then moves potentially south because experts have been saying that an earthquake, one of those once-in-a-century earthquakes needs to
essentially happen in this region sometime soon. And so Benjamin Netanyahu today ordering a situation assessment of how prepared Israel is for the
next big one that may strike any day now, as we've seen happened in Turkey and Syria. Christina.
MACFARLANE: Yes. A frightening prospect, isn't it? Hadas, just picking up on one point you mentioned there about access to the region. How
challenging is it for these international teams to get aid into the region given that we know that many of the airports have been grounded or even
torn up because of the earthquake?
GOLD: Yeah, in conversations with aid groups, with the military that I've had, there were different situations, they were trying to figure out
whether to use certain flights like a plane called a Hercules that can land on badly damaged runways or runways that are not potentially secure. But
essentially, the Israeli military decided that it was worth it to be able to fly more safely into Adana and then drive into the different places.
And actually, what the Israeli military does is they send a small plane with a smaller team to first do a situation assessment. That was sent in
the early afternoon hours. So they've already been on the ground, I'm looking at the time for about, I would say, three hours or so. It's only
about a two-hour flight from here to the hardest hit area. So, they were sent to first figure out where they need to be, who needs to go where and
then that bigger plane of more are coming through. And the other aid groups that I'm talking to, I -- they will likely be sending essentially charter
flights. So they will likely be going through those airports that are not damaged, that they can still get to steal land at and then be essentially
driving to where they need to be.
In terms of the assistance to Syria, it is very unlikely that Israeli teams will actually be on the ground there for political and diplomatic reasons.
Unlikely that the aid, if it is actually passed, will be potentially passed through an intermediary, through Russia or through other such means.
MACFARLANE: Yes, yes, I do say very unlikely but important detail. nonetheless. Hadas Gold there live for us from Jerusalem. Thank you so
All right. Still to come tonight, NATO countries are holding exercises using the types of tanks they are about to send to Ukraine. What we're
learning from those exercises next.
MACFARLANE: Messages of support and pledges of assistance are pouring in from around the world following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and
Syria, among them from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He tweeted, "We stand with the people of Turkey in this difficult time. We are ready to
provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster." Ukraine offering to send help abroad as Russian forces ramp up
attacks at home.
Over the weekend, Russia fired missiles on the city of Kharkiv, destroying an apartment building and injuring at least four people. This, as the
battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut rages on. The commander of Ukraine's land forces say they will prevail against Russian forces saying the
landscape and natural defenses turned the city into a "unwinnable fortress."
NATO is brushing up on its military response skills with its annual winter exercise in Estonia. Nic Robertson saw them in action and joins me now live
from Estonia. And Nic, we've been hearing about these Leopard 2 tanks for weeks now, if not months, and we understand that the Ukrainian forces are
today learning or beginning to use the Leopard 2 tanks. You've seen them in action. Tell us what you saw.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think one of the big takeaways is, it's going to take a while for the Ukrainians to get
fully up to speed on them. But the military exercises here, the Ukrainians will be watching closely and will be looking to see what lessons they can
learn because this NATO exercise is all about punching through enemy lines and trying to seize territory using the tanks as the main thrust to do
that. That's exactly what you create the Ukrainians want to do when they get the tanks. They call them -- or hope that they will be for them an iron
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Danish Leopard 2 tanks, similar to those soon to be deployed to Ukraine, storming an imagined enemy position in Estonia. French
troops attack fictional front lines as Estonian troops pretend to hold them off. All part of the Baltic Nations annual NATO winter exercise to gel the
multinational alliances into a singular fighting force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: This year, these military exercises feel different. The French have bought in far more troops in the past. And with war still raging not
far away in Ukraine, commanders say this training feels much more real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Two-thirds of the 44 tanks involved in the exercise, British challenger, two tanks, more like these also soon deploying to Ukraine.
Lessons learned here, valuable for the Ukrainians. Communications between the Challenger and Leopard tanks critical, but no doubt, used correctly,
they could be a game-changer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR NICK BRIDGES, BRITISH ENHANCED FORWARD PRESENCE, ESTONIA: Both can do -- can fight at night and they've got hunter killer capabilities as well,
so they can engage a target while looking for the next target so very much more advanced time to advance sighting systems than what the adversary
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: The Ukrainian say they want to use their Leopard 2 tank as an iron fist to punch through Russia lines, give Putin a bloody nose, and
snatch back territory they've lost. The lesson here, that won't happen overnight. Typically, Danish trained individual Leopard 2 operators in two
weeks, a crew of four in two months.
But it can take two years to combine them into a force able to seize territory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR RASMUS JENSEN, DANISH MILITARY: See, it's the tactics that takes time. Then you have the theory as a crew, then you have to learn to drive
as a crew within a platoon or within the squadron.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Estonia's Defense Minister, whose country spends a whopping 1 percent of GDP, supporting Ukraine watching the training, keen to get the
tanks to Ukraine soonest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNO PEVKUR, ESTONIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: I really hope that it's not too late. I really hope because we all understand that there is a push from
Russians coming in a very, like, coming months, or coming weeks even.
ROBERTSON: So is this a make or break moment in the next few months in this war?
PEVKUR: Probably. So it's -- once again, when there will be no breakthrough in the coming weeks and months, then probably we will end or we will step
into the very long time of war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: This operation ongoing for another week. As elsewhere, Ukrainian troops begin to get their hands on beasts like these. How quickly they can
use them effectively will impact well beyond Ukraine.
ROBERTSON (on camera): And quite simply, the reason for that, if this war does get bogged down, and Ukraine's allies all across Europe, United
States, Canada have to continue to pour money in to support them in this war, which they said they will, undoubtedly, if it runs into that long-
term, they can expect to face a greater and greater pushback from their publics. So there's a huge amount of at stake this year and the tanks, as
we saw, are very, very key part of it. But the speed to get them there, that's huge. And I think realistically, even though the training times are
longer in countries that are not at war, I think we're going to see the Ukrainians really shorten those training times so that they can try to get
back that territory this year. Try not to get bogged down in that long-term war.
MACFARLANE: Yes, as we're hearing in your piece, Nic, a potentially make or break moment. It's great to have that -- the insight and see those chunks -
- see those tanks in action. Thank you, Nic Robertson from Estonia.
All right. Still to come tonight, the devastating impact this earthquake is having on children, and a heartbreaking moment between a father and his
son. That's next.
MACFARLANE: In addition to the tragic number of people who've lost their lives from the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria, there are now a
large number of people have -- who are displaced and vulnerable, and they're dealing with freezing conditions. Bob Kitchen is with the
International Rescue Committee and joining us now live. Bob, tell us what you're hearing about the conditions in Syria right now, particularly in the
Northwest where we know there are many refugee and displaced communities.
BOB KITCHEN, HEAD OF EMERGENCIES, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: We're hearing it's really serious. There's 2 million people who were already
living in the northwest without adequate shelter and water and sewage. Up to 800,000 people in makeshift shelters, we're really worried for those
people, almost assuredly they've lost their home, they're now exposed to the cold weather and they're really in need of urgent assistance.
MACFARLANE: Yes, how much worse is -- are these freezing temperatures, this unseasonable cold going to make this humanitarian crisis?
KITCHEN: Tough to put a number on it, but I'd say 10 times worse. We've got staff in Turkey and northern Syria that have been evacuated from their own
homes, or offices have been heavily impacted, destroyed, they're now having to work outside in the bitterly cold. Snow has been felt falling all day
long. So, it makes a very difficult situation even more complex. And it puts a clock on our work where we have to make sure that we're reopening
our health centers, finding shelter for both our clients and our staff so they can find somewhere to shelter.
MACFARLANE: So, what type of aid have the IRC been providing and how challenging has it been to get the aid to where it needs to go given that,
you know, Syria is essentially act still an active war zone.
KITCHEN: It's a difficult place to work. The IRC has more than 1,000 staff on the ground across Syria. In the last 18 hours, we've been working to
confirm the safety and location of our staff to make sure they're okay. And we're now pivoting to reopen health centers and clinics and starting up
programs to provide shelter and cash critically to people so they can afford food and the warm clothes they need to survive this sudden shock.
MACFARLANE: I mean, I know the IRC have responded to many crises like this, but perhaps nothing on this scale. Where do you look to begin your
operation when it is a crisis of this magnitude?
KITCHEN: We've operated in similar situations. Pakistan back in the day comes to my mind. But this is a new challenge, overlaying natural disaster
and ongoing conflict and fragility. So, we start working with communities hand-in-hand, understanding their priorities, helping to really get
resources into the country. This -- in this case, it will be difficult it will be coming in from Turkey themselves who will be struggling to rebuild.
So, it'll be a big challenge. But with the dedicated and very brave staff we have across the region, I'm confident we'll be able to get aid in very
MACFARLANE: What do you know the state of the hospitals in the region given that they have, as we understand, largely been decimated by the war there,
are any still in existence? Where do people go to get medical assistance?
KITCHEN: Well, it's a system that has already, as you say, been stretched to breaking point over the last decade or more of conflict. Only two-thirds
of health facilities have any services ongoing pre last night. We know that our offices and clinics have been damaged as a result of the earthquake.
Some of our partners have had to pause because their clinics have been destroyed. So, we will be doing the same as we've done over the last
decade, we'll be using houses and other facilities, shifting to mobile clinics, going out to where clients have been injured to provide healthcare
to them where they are.
MACFARLANE: Bob, it's great to speak to you and we wish you and your team, sir, the best of luck with the mammoth task that lies ahead. Thank you for
All right. It's nearly 11:00 p.m. in Syria and Turkey as rescue teams continue their search for survivors. The earthquake has further displaced
an already vulnerable group of people, especially children, terrified and shocked. They're rescued from collapsed buildings and leveled homes. Here's
one of the more uplifting moments.
So difficult to watch. Sadly though, of course, not all children have survived this disaster. We're about to show you a video that is disturbing.
It's the moment a Syrian father mourns his infant son in the wake of the earthquake.
Scenes from inside hospitals show the trauma young survivors are facing. It's a stark illustration of the earthquake's impact. In some cases, the
rescue children have become one of the only surviving members of their families, such as Syrian toddler, Raghad, whose mother and two siblings
died in the earthquake. Schools across Syria and Turkey will be closed for the week and the National Week of Mourning is now in effect across Turkey.
Thanks for watching and stay with CNN. A special edition of CNN NEWSROOM is up next was when we bring you continuing coverage of the devastating
earthquake in Turkey and Syria.